WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 03, 2003
Nellie Elder Statesman Among College Mascots

The University of Georgia's bulldog mascot is one of the best-known in college athletics. Uga has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated and in Clint Eastwood's movie, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

LSU's tiger is one of the most feared. With each growl from his cage near the visitors' locker room, Mike dictates how many touchdowns the Tigers will score. The University of Texas' steer is one of the most respected. Bevo was requested for President Bush's inauguration ceremony. But whoa, Nellie.

JU's official mascot, Nellie the Dolphin, is the oldest of the 36 live animal mascots at the 241 schools in the NCAA's Division I and I-AA ranks, having turned 50 in February of 2003.

"She's been a world record for many years," said Bill Upson, who oversees animal training at Marineland, just south of St. Augustine, where Nellie has lived since being born in the park on Feb. 27, 1953.

While Nellie is the only Dolphin to have represented JU, there have been six Ugas, five Mikes and 13 Bevos. Navy has the oldest mascot tradition, with 31 Billy the Goats. Two more are in waiting. Colorado State has carried on the lineage of 18 rams named Cam. And Washington has had the same family provide huskies since 1958.

Nellie has never appeared at a JU competition or event. However, she performed five-minute sports routines throughout the day in front of Marineland crowds for decades before she was retired in the mid-1980's.

Nellie lives with 10 other Dolphins in Marineland tanks, which have running water from the nearby Atlantic Ocean.